Growing (with) the gingers

12 02 2013

And so it goes and goes, and so she grows and grows, and so we all just keep tripping through the clumsy dance of learning and fumbling and making messes and cleaning things up and trying skills and failing at things and living:

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Evanny’s survived 4 1/2 months of life in our house and is becoming more interactive and more emotive by the day.  She laughs at us all now, not just at her brother, although I can still only extract a fabulous crinkle-grin and a quiet chuckle; the belly-giggles are reserved for the boys.  She talks about her anger and frustration, in long-winded spiels of extended-vowel baby-babble which are remarkably more eloquent than crying (which isn’t to say she doesn’t cry, but these days she usually cries until she gets your full attention, and once she has it, she’ll scold you fiercely instead of continuing).  And this morning, when she woke up from a long nap (holy hell, people, there’s napping) a bit muzzy, she hung onto my shoulder and did a little sniffly weeping–no wailing at all, not baby-crying, just the sort of sad little crying one can work up by dwelling too long on a tragedy.  I wondered–and asked–what the tragedy was, but it’ll be years yet before I start getting answers. Last night, as sometimes happens, she failed in her attempt to nurse herself to sleep for the night–there was too much energy in the baby, apparently, and she ran out of milk before she ran out of consciousness–and cried about being awake pretty healthily for a while before settling, in my arms in a dark room, to complaining loudly and then more quietly (and then loudly again, and a little more crying, but it eventually petered out) until she drifted off.  No nipple in her mouth, no rocking, no patting, just lying on me: I consider this a positive learning experience (although not positive enough to start deliberately removing her while still awake to put us through it every night, especially since it only stuck for 45 minutes, and then she was back up needing to be rocked and patted and shushed and tucked back in again–three rounds worth–before finally staying down for a good (but measly) 4 hours) and good practice for how she’s going to have to be out of our room within the month because she hardly fits in the bassinet anymore; in the morning, now, she wakes me sometimes by scratching on its sides with her sharp little claws, because her hands are all pressed up against them.  The best part, though, was after the falling asleep (the 11-o’clock version, before the waking up again), when, still in my arms, she shifted quickly enough for it to have been easily missed from awake-and-grizzling to asleep-and-giggling, and talking a little, and then giggling again, for all in the world like she was having a baby-conversation in her dreams with some dear friend (or, more likely, one of the cats).  The cute, I think it scalded me.

And Beorn, as you can see in the picture, is getting more acclimated to indoor cat-life daily.  We’re still not allowed to touch the cat, and he still panics if the basement door is closed (because that’s his hideout, even though he doesn’t spend much time in it anymore)–he has no concept, at all, of the cat-flap that we installed to make sure that we could close the basement door… so we live with the draft, trip over the door, and keep hoping one of these days a 12-legged game of chase will take him right through it before he stops to think too hard.  He routinely sleeps in upstairs rooms and closets, follows me around the house hoping for snacks, and plays great wild reindeer games with the other two, so I no longer feel any guilt about the feral feline.  I’d like to be able to touch him, because he’s soft.  And because socialization with the human would enable things like vet-visits, so he could have the booster shots he’s way overdue on and maybe think about a righteous neutering.  We’ve got a lot of trust to establish before we’ll imagine it strong enough to withstand a mauling from surgical procedures, though!  But in terms of my goals, we’ve met them: he interacts with the cats, enjoys the house, basks in sunny windows, is human-friendly enough to take food from our hands, and can often be seen playing, indicating that he’s a happy creature.  Plus, when they all start galloping around chasing each other, we can tell he makes the others happy too.

So we have success at this point, albeit incomplete and still thus with plenty of room for swinging upwards–a laughing baby who’s learning a little more each week about the big-kid realm of sleep, and a playing cat who’s coming a little closer each week to letting me touch him when he’s begging treats.

And me, the biggest, usually (but only usually) least feral of the gingers?  I’m growing in my own ways too, although it’s hard to judge, in the overlap of expansions and contractions, whether it’s a net growth of more bigness or smallness.  I’m growing more confident in baby-minding, and baby-interacting, and best of all baby-sleep-making: there are naps now.  Most days they don’t happen on me, even (although I lack discipline about this: I could pry her off my lap and boob right now and dance/rock/pat her to sleep in her own room, but it would take a lot of time and might not work and she’s content and sleepy right where she is, so I’m not going to, even though I could get a lot of school- and/or housework done in the at-least-45-minutes of being 2-handed that I’d win if I succeeded, and instead I’m just going to sit her puttering around with this blog); I’ve got a pretty good (if not at all conducive to life-with-other-people) routine down of swaddling her in an over-sized swaddle-wrap, cranking up a cassette of 80s music in her brother’s room, cranking up the ocean-sounds on her noise-maker in her room, dancing her to the combination of loud synth-pop and loud synthesized waves until she quits fighting and goes limp, settling her down in the crib, rocking her cocoon by hand with rhythmic shushing noises until she closes her eyes again when they invariably fly open at the transfer, switching the ocean over to steady white noise once she’s out, and sneaking out of the room to turn down the 80s music so that I can hear her when she wakes up.

I hope, of course, that at some point in our lives napping will be a less involved activity, but  you start where you are and, like everybody with any advice to offer about babies everywhere says, you do what works.  I’m learning to do what works.  I’m learning to cope with her crying at the sitter downstairs 3 mornings a week and being a dutiful teacher/grader/correspondent no matter what she’s down there saying, because I’ve got too much to do and can’t afford to buy enough time to waste any on sentiment.  I’m learning to get grades to my students late and to send short emails, because, even though that’s not ideal, it’s better than never and no emails.  I’m learning to recruit Matt’s help with house-tasks and baby-juggling on weekends without being utterly crushed by the “I don’t wanna!” faces he makes while he’s saying “okay,” because he’s allowed to wish weekends were actual work-breaks, even though they’re not, and I’m allowed to ask for (and have) the help, even if it comes with faces.  It’s a steep, steep curve, and doing it on minimal sleep (just like everybody else) seems like a cruel jibe by the universe–although it’s nice to know, however belatedly, and however irrelevantly, since I never wanted to go anyway, that I could have survived med school: the amount of information I’ve ingested, the amount of sleep I’ve learned to live without, and the amount of both physical and mental stamina I’ve managed would suffice to get me through the training schedule of any of those feather-heads on Gray’s Anatomy (none of whom, by the way, have the children they pretend to have; those are occasional props for the plot’s sake.  You can tell by how they’re still always shown having meaningful conversations alone with their spouses in clean, neat beds while wearing matching pajamas and with their hair combed.  No way those people have babies/toddlers).

I get bored.  Yes, yes I do.  I would be less bored if I could play in the kitchen more; I will be less bored when I can play in the kitchen more, and I believe that day will come.  I do.  I have to.  There will come a day (everybody says so) when this baby will sit and play and allow me to accomplish things in her proximity.  For now, though, the little girl has about a 10-minute max tolerance for being left in the bouncer in there to watch me do things, and I don’t have long enough arms to safely cut or cook much of anything while she’s attached to me in a sling, so we end up using up the whole 10 minutes, most times, putting away the dishes in the drying rack.  Later in the day, we may use another 10 to wash mugs and silverware.  But someday–and I’m learning to wait for someday, and not to beg it to hurry, either.  Matt says “I can’t wait” a lot, in reference to things she will be able to do at some point, things that will make some aspect or another of our lives easier–or possible at all, but I can.  I can look forward to having free hands, but I can wait, too, because those gains will come with their own losses, and I’m in no hurry for losses.  I’ve had to grow small to do this well: I don’t go much of anywhere, I don’t talk to many people, I don’t read much that isn’t about babies; I don’t write much that isn’t about this baby.  And I’ve learned to treasure things about this smallness curled up in my lap with her milky mouth hanging open, knowing that the one smallness depends on the other.  So I’m not in a rush for her to get bigger, even though it will bring with it a re-biggening of the world that will be in many ways welcome.  The big will only come at the cost of smallness, and some of these smallnesses, like these smooth, soft, strong, deft hands with their delicate, deliberate, dancing fingers, are my favorite, favorite things in this whole, tiny world: when the world grows, they’ll grow with it.  And they’ll never fit so solidly entirely around a single one of my fingers as they do today, when they’re just exactly this small.

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